This project’s goals are to engage farmer advisors (crop consultants, private sector grazing technical service providers, and agency staff) in building skills in managed grazing and forage production systems that use diverse annual and perennial forages to meet livestock needs. In recent years, agriculture in the North Central Region has become increasingly specialized. Recent interest in soil health has led livestock and grain farmers to explore opportunities to reintegrate managed grazing of cover crops and perennial forages into their systems. No single forage species performs well across all seasons, soil types and climate conditions. A forage chain is a planning process to design a calendar of diverse forages that ensures availability of forage throughout the year. The project brings together two unique target audiences for co-learning and professional development: certified crop advisors who work primarily with cash grain and confinement dairy farmers and grazing technical service providers who work primarily with livestock graziers. Working closely with these audiences’ professional organizations, the Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants and the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, project partners will plan and carry out educational activities to increase the availability of forage chain and grazing planning expertise. By training certified crop advisors and early career conservation professionals, building a user-friendly grazing planning website, and engaging all participants in the statewide Grazing Team network, the project will ensure farmers interested in adopting managed grazing of perennials, annuals, cover crops, or crop aftermath will have access to the information and support they need.
Project objectives from proposal:
A key output of the project will be new partnerships among organizations that serve technical service providers and those that serve certified crop advisors and cross-programming among these organizations. Through these new partnerships, there will be increased information sharing on incorporating annual and perennial forages into crop rotations. Conservation and agricultural professionals will add to their toolbox resources and expertise in managing forage chains.
A page will be added to GrassWorks website that will contain all the pertinent information needed for technical service providers to create grazing plans to NRCS standards. The page will include checklists of requirements, links to specific resources needed to include in the plans, sample grazing plans, and other information to assist TSPs in creating approved grazing plans that will allow their clients to access NRCS EQIP cost-share funding for managed grazing.
Educational activities coordinated by the G-Team will include 2 to 4 events annually, advertised statewide and showcasing a diversity of landscapes, soils, and farming operations. Events will include workshops on grazing planning, grazing infrastructure design, and forage chain development; field days and pasture walks on farms implementing these practices; and other topics requested by participants. GrassWorks’ annual conference will incorporate workshops on these topics as well. All educational activities will be registered for continuing educational units through the American Society of Agronomy Certified Crop Advisor program.
The project will create an informal mentoring network among experienced grazing technical service providers and early career NRCS and Land and Water Conservation staff around the state. Each RC&D will work with their local Conservation Agency offices to determine need and pair interested staff with experienced RC&D staff or farmers. Mentees will gain from shadowing technical assistance providers on visits with farmers, having someone to call with questions, and gaining hands-on experience working with graziers on their farms. Farmer mentors will receive an honorarium for their participation.